Robert Sharp is a 28-year-old entrepreneur and co-founder of one the top gay and lesbian travel companies around, OUT Adventures. The company is just over three years old and has already amassed a loyal and repeat clientele and taken a huge chunk out of this travel sector's competition. Find out more about this adventurous entrepreneur in today's YEDaily.
Elevator Pitch: Describe your business in a nutshell.
OUT Adventures is an adventure tour operator that has broken the mould within the Gay and Lesbian travel segment. That’s right, gay travel – one of the most profitable segments within the travel industry. We provide clients with trips that really focus on experiencing a country through its culture, and people – not just the tourist spots you can find in a guidebook.
Why did you start your business, what was the inspiration?
My business partner and I are very well travelled and we were both burnt out with our respective careers. We knew there were large mainstream adventure companies like Intrepid Travel and Gap Adventures and wondered why this style of travel wasn’t really available to gay and lesbian travellers. With our combined sales and marketing experience, we knew that we could create something really amazing, and voila: OUT Adventures was born.
What is the best part of what you do on a day-to-day basis? The most challenging part?
Hands down, dealing with our clients. To be only three years into the business and have such a loyal following is the justification that I believe most sales and marketing professionals seek, at all levels. Industry recognition is one thing, but happy (and repeat) clients are the most rewarding part of any business, in my opinion.
The most challenging part of our day-to-day business is focusing on just a few tasks or projects at a time to ensure they are executed well. I tend to be full of ideas, and perhaps other entrepreneurs can relate with me when I say I sometimes have to stop and take time to collect myself rather than risk spreading myself thin with too many initiatives.
Where do you see your business going in 5 years?
I want OUT Adventures to be the #1 gay and lesbian tour company in the world – and there is notable competition. At this point, I have no interest in being the largest, but would love to be known as the best, with the most innovative and coolest travel product out there.
What does success look like to you?
There are many faces to success, but overall I believe you have succeeded if you have balance in your life. A profitable business, satisfied employees, and, most importantly, work-life balance. I truly believe it can all be achieved through hard work and dedication.
What is the most memorable milestone in your career?
A few years back, on one of our first tours to Peru, the group was having dinner at a very cool restaurant in Cusco. I was able to sit back and see people from different backgrounds, different ages, and different interests really enjoying themselves. They were sharing their favourite moments from the trip so far. To sit back and just take it all in, and to think “Wow, I created this.” It may not seem like a substantial milestone, but it was at that moment I knew we had something really special with OUT Adventures.
Do you have any advice for other young professionals?
Always have a plan. Whether your plan is a general business plan or a more specific sales or marketing plan, stick to it as much as possible and set clearly defined goals to support it. That plan will always be evolving and changing, but it is a major component to success. Also, a new tool that I have found incredibly useful (and often hesitant to share) is called Business Model Generation. Check it out!
Do you support any charities? If so, which one(s) and why is that important to you?
I personally support charities that my friends and loved ones are involved with, and OUT Adventures is a major sponsor of the Friends for Life Bike Rally in support of the Toronto People with AIDS Foundation. We also support a number of other charities by providing them with travel vouchers to assist with fundraising. I truly believe in community involvement.
What is Notable to you?
Integrity is notable to me. My favourite (and most notable) people, products and businesses all have one thing in common: they act or operate based on integrity.
Blackberry, iPhone, Android, or Other?
iPhone. I love my media, and my apps. For me, with much of my time travelling, I find it the most useful device across the board.